North and South: The UK Digital Media Divide
Recent research has highlighted a clear regional split across the UK in the use of online media as a business tool. New Media Knowledge spoke to some regional players from the four corners of the country to get a true reflection.
A study from BT Tradespace, an online business social network, has found a distinct regional divide in the way organisations across the UK use social media as a business tool.
The research found London-based organisations most likely to use social networking sites to market their companies, with almost a quarter (24 per cent) taking this approach. The South East and North West of England were next with 19 per cent, but just eight per cent of Scottish businesses engage with social media, BT Tradespace found.
Mick Hegarty, head of BT Tradespace, said: “More and more businesses are starting to use social networking platforms to win and attract new customers. But many are still failing to realise the full potential of the web to help them compete and thrive in our changing world.”
The Dutiful South
Rob Marcus, director of social media monitoring firm Chat Moderators, believes the regional split has more do to with the geographical spread of big business than with education.
“Large organisations have the time to set up these initiatives and the budget to monitor it effectively,” he said. “Areas with relatively low big business activity may see a slower uptake of social media initiatives because of financial restraints and the common view that managing it is time consuming.”
All of Chat Moderators’ clients during its eight-year history have been situated in London and the South East of England.
Marcus continued: “I believe it won’t be too long before all organisations, no matter their size or location, will have to engage in social media initiatives. Consumer-powered media platforms are not only here to stay, but are increasingly overtaking other marketing initiatives. Any business that overlooks the power of social media risks getting left behind.”
The media divide seems to be spreading into television programming, too. A recent report from independent trade production body Pact has found that outside London television production continues to fall.
Blog on the Tyne
Stephen Waddington, Managing Director of technology media consultancy Rainier PR and a keen new media blogger, splits his time between his Northumberland home office and London and is not surprised by the findings.
“My personal view is that the research simply reflects the social and economic status of each region, and that the rankings tie in directly with the proportion of knowledge workers by region,” he said.
Public relations agency Ruder Finn has a regional office in Bristol where the company still finds regional print and broadcast media to have strong appeal, although younger audiences are driving digital uptake.
“There is a lack of company websites and regional media is still the strongest method of communication,” explained Kate Gordon, Bristol-based social media consultant for Ruder Finn. “Facebook and MySpace are slowly being used more and more with some strong local networks and groups now in existence. Venues in Bristol are usually pretty good with their marketing and have a more advanced understanding of the benefits of digital marketing.”
So are businesses in Scotland really so far behind those down south when it comes to marketing themselves digitally? Catriona Campbell is the founder of Edinburgh-based user experience consultancy, Foviance, she believes that Scotland has a vast digital community but the slower adoption of digital marketing may be due to the type of commerce prevalent north of the border.
“I believe that the slow take-up may well be because a great deal of Scotland’s industries - most notably the brewers and the financial services industries - have different needs, so are not leading in this new marketing field,” she told NMK.
Ross Laurie, Managing Director of digital agency Line, which has offices in Edinburgh and London, believes that Scottish media has been “only slightly slow” in adopting digital routes to market due to the strong relationships that more traditional agencies have with key clients in the country, but he’s upbeat.
“Bright times are ahead - we are now beginning to see briefs coming in for online ads and emails as opposed to viral campaigns and blogs. And we are also beginning to get more involved at the start of briefs as opposed to the end,” he said. “I hope we can see increased spend in social media because it’s effective and for no other reason!”